What Starts Here Changes The World | The University of Texas at Austin

Past Projects

Cooling Tower #1

rendering of Cooling Tower #1

Cooling Tower #1 was originally constructed in 1958 and was becoming very unreliable. For example, the tower was constructed with wooden pipe headers that were leaking more water than they were conveying. This project was challenging because it was located between two power plant buildings and was surrounded by live plant systems. The new tower also had to be increased in capacity to handle the addition of the new 25 megawatt steam turbine, in addition to existing systems, and still fit in the existing tower footprint. This project was completed in August 2003 using a fiberglass tower and is automated to interface with the existing power plant control system.

25 Megawatt Steam Turbine

The Hal C. Weaver Power Plant generated 85 megawatts with equipment that dated from 1945 to 1988. Should the largest generator fail, the firm capacity remaining would have been 48 megawatts. With a campus peak load of 56 megawatts and projected peak load growth of more than 60 megawatts in the next eight years, it became important to improve total and firm capacity. Because of the increased load, this also meant the existing 25 megawatt steam turbine could never be shut down for maintenance.

The project to install a new 25 megawatt steam turbine allows for a backup to the largest existing 25 megawatt steam turbine that was built 1978. The new turbine is about 9% more efficient than the prior unit, improves the firm capacity to about 73 megawatts, and pays for itself over its life with efficiency savings.

The installation of the new turbine was challenging due to tight space constraints within the existing plant, but we eventually selected an installation site within an addition to the Power Plant Annex building. The turbine was shipped from Germany via river and sea, and from a U.S. seaport to Austin via truck. The project required temporarily closing 24th Street, a key transportation artery of the campus, and it also involved erecting a temporary 70-foot-high, 300-ton gantry crane to place the turbine into the installation site.

The end result of this project is a new steam turbine that will support the campus load for many years to come and is housed in a building that blends in with the surrounding campus aesthetic. As the cost of natural gas escalates to more than $4/MMBTU, the university will reap savings beyond the cost of the project.

Watch a video of the 25 MW Steam Turbine* to see footage of the installation.


*requires software capable of playing a .mpg file, such as the free Quicktime Player.